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FEBRUARY 13, 2012 2:52PM

Equality Illinois Gala, Celebrating Every Family 2012

Rate: 8 Flag

 Just a little something that is really about love, and appropriate for Valentine's Day!


In early 2000, I was an honored guest at this event. I was campaigning in a Republican primary for state representative. At the time Illinois had been struggling with including language in a housing bill that would protect those with disabilities and additionally those who were gay, adding to the protections already there, which included race, religion, etc. This was not too long after the murder of Matthew Shepard.

That event saw me in a sea of tuxedoed men, escorted to a staircase with other more notable politicians. While I walked down that long staircase alone, to a bright spot light and applause, I had the opportunity to feel the thanks of a grateful community, which at that moment, was meant only for me. I was almost overcome because all I did was speak out, I was powerless to enact anything, and did not become an elected official, but it might be said that my defiance, along with hundreds of others in the state, made a huge difference in housing rights in the state of Illinois. All change does begin with saying what you think, and saying it out loud and questioning the status quo and before you know it all of your single voices become the loud screams of change. 

I had been appalled when my State Representative, Jack Franks, a Democrat, who oft acted as a Republican voting with them on many issues, decided that he was not going to support the housing bill. It simply did not make sense to me. When I confronted him, he gave me an arguement that when he was a kid he was overweight. He said that giving gay people protection under the law with respect to housing, was like trying to protect him as an overweight kid from discrimination and suffering. This made no sense to him. What he said made no sense to me. I said to him how can you  not put protections in place that may save someone from discriminination? We went back and forth, Matthew's experience came up, with respect to the violence and hatred a gay person could experience and that was it. I told him he would probably be sorry that he scoffed at this and that I was going to make it my business to show the importance of this kind of protection against discrimination.

The gloves were off. But, who was I to the gay community? No one really. I was a housewife with three small children that did some volunteer work in the community and that was about it. I was associated with the American Association of University Women on the state level and locally (although locally it was much less activist and more social).


My social universe in my college years often touched the gay community through my interests and activities in the arts. I had many friends who were gay. When I graduated and went to work, I found myself working with several gay people. I has always thought of myself as a person who had a collection of different people to pepper my existence with. I am an artist at heart and I am uncomfortable with any kind of discrimination and was that was not stereotypical of many of my peers at that time.

I owe that to my parents. They too were non discriminatory. They embraced humanity. Having both served in WWII and witnessed the devastation of hatred, they were, in their own ways, very committed to the idea that discrimination had no place in society. To this end, they were never in any kind of closed clubs, or segrated communities. They never looked or acted differently, or were shocked at people who were different. This they can probably trace back, in some ways, to their military experience.

In my mother's days as a WAVE, she was ordered by her commanding officer to spy on one of her group with the end to see if that woman was a lesbian. My mother was appalled to be asked to inform and found it shocking that this woman would be released from duty, regardless of her competence. She never forgot that.

The world is a very untidy place. We are all different. The best that we can seek for each other is peace and harmony. If that is not possible, then we seek at least some kind of recourse to make us safe and able to function freely and without damage to our human rights in society. We know that some cannot accept anything different from themselves, but others can. We know that sometimes that certain acceptence borders on real hatred or no acceptance at any level and that hatred can turn into violent action, including death. Therefore it was incumbant on me when I saw this opportunity to give a measure of protection to the gay and disabled in housing, it would be a simple and significant step in the right direction of society to protect those who might otherwise be persecuted with a legal recourse.

In the end, I was asked to run by a member of the state's pro choice pac because I was also pro choice, and to step out in front of the Republican bus of conservative primary candidates. I was to challenge the conservative streak of behavior in the county. The challenges of that and the outcomes are really not what this post is about and are better shared another time. Suffice to say I was not completely successful, but the little engine that could went a hell of a lot farther and did a lot more damage than the naysayers could have ever imagined.  


So many years later and these shared beliefs and experiences found me at this event again. This time I was asked to attend by women familier with my thoughts and feelings, who I had worked with or supported on their issues of choice, end of life rights, gay right and non profits. We came to honor the husband of one of these women who was often in our circle. He was being honored posthumously for all his work as a legislator in our state as a supporter of gay rights. 

This year the event itself displayed the great strides in the community of inclusiveness. Instead of a sea of men in tuxedos, there were many lesbians and trans gendered people also there. It was a huge, colorful expanse of humanity which was a delight to experience. The theme even spoke of the wider accomplishments by Celebrating Every Family.

Many politicians attended, the usual, Rahm Emanuel,  Pat Quinn and scores of others, pressing the flesh and all that. Some heartily embraced and others, who have yet to prove themselves also claiming the opportunity. I distance myself from those. It is not all a big party to grab votes, it is a real celebration of accomplishment and unless you worked on it, were touched by it and supported it, you really can't claim a part in the victory of it. You can be happy about it but it is not yours to exploit. That is the difference between activism and politics.


Justice for All, The Equality Illinois 2012 Gala


Judy, Mary, Dee, Jill, myself and Toni at the event cocktail hour. 





 Judy checking out the silent auction items. I did bid and win the framed art deco print of the Chrysler Building in New York. Love it!




 Guest speaker at Equality Illinois 2012 Gala Event Valerie Jarrett, Celebrating Every Family.

 We were there honoring the late State Representative Mark Beaubien, whose wife Dee Beaubien received the Equality Illinois Freedom Award on behalf of her late husband. Mark had been a long time supporter of Equality Illinois and was an Assistant Republican Leader. He stood firm as one of a handful of legislators in his party to support the strengthening of the hate crimes legislation (which I had worked for at the federal level assisting on a project with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, call the United Against Hate Campaign, through the American Association of University Women) transgender-inclusive non discrimination law of 2005, the safe schools act and civil unions in 2010. I was honored to be a guest of Dee Beaubien. I was equally honored to have assisted Mark when he was redistricted over 10 years ago into a greater portion of our county and with the direction of Personal PAC worked on his campaign. He was a genuine individual who worked for equality not only for LGBT but also for women on the issue of Choice. Mark was the best of men and his family loved and supported his work. I was proud to know him and prouder still that he helped change Illinois for the better for everyone.




This is a picture of Mark Beaubien in Springfield at a Planned Parenthood Event in 2007. Also in the picture is the president of McHenry County Citizens for Choice, Dee Manny. 



This is Dee Beaubien at that same Springfield event. 

Mystic Image Photography has more pictures on their facebook page.


Copyright 2012 by SheilaTGTG55 

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Okay, so what did you do the Saturday night before Valentine's Day?
Seriously, hope you can appreciate this post as a glass raised to diversity and a successful year for gay rights in Illinois, and one of the great men of our time who helped make it happen. Mark Beaubien was someone who truly served all the people in Illinois to the best of his ability and experience.
Sheila, it is amazing to read the differences from the same event but separated by twelve years! I am so used to seeing nothing happen that I was impressed by the differences you wrote about. Activism v. Politics, another great way of observing events like this. I have seen my share of politicians try to take credit for things they had nothing to do with, too! Thank you for sharing this great story!
Nothing as spectacular as what you did, but I will raise my lemon-honey tea in your honor, Sheila. (Suffering the flu). I've been enjoying your recent activist posts here lately and admire your efforts and their fruits. Cheers!
designator: Thanks for reading. Sometimes it is easy to forget all the things that people can do to make a difference. I look back and say, did I do enough to right the things I felt were wrong, and that question is a part of the legacy I am hoping to leave my children. I want them to try and "do enough" so they can look back at their part in important social change and be satisfied.
Fusun: Thank you for reading, we all have part to play in justice.
I don't understand why some people believe it is ok to discriminate, fire or murder someone because of who they love. Thanks you for standing up for what is right.
ccdarling: I completely agree, hatred and violence is the bain of the human existence, along with greed. If we work to live in harmony, then the things like disease, climate change and hunger are all things we can work on together. The idea that some people are less while others are more is not conducive to living in a peace filled world.
Sheila: In the last few months I have noticed a drastic change in what you write and what you post on FB. You are doing your part in a wonderful way. Keep up the good work!
BTW: if you ever tire of the Chrysler building art I am waving over here hahahah
Linda: Too funny! When I saw that picture at the event, I immediately thought of that scene in The Producers when Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane go to the directors apartment and he is getting ready for an event where he dresses up in drag with the Chrysler building motif. HAHAHAHAH. Anyway, when I started posting on OS over two years ago, I spent more time resting from politics. I would occasionally share something here and there but mostly I was not trying to use this as a forum. When I started on facebook at around the same time, I never intended to make it very personal, but more a clearinghouse of what I was reading and thought others would enjoy seeing my reading and commentary. I never included anything about family. When my kids friended me on fb I started making it a bit more personal, but I still like to mainly just share the political arguments and insights. Many of the people on my fb are politicians and media leaders in Illinois. In my political travels I have met a number of interesting people. I also now include many OS people, some of whom I am not sure even read me here, but that is the beauty of it all, we are interacting and learning so much more. I like that. Thanks for reading Linda.
It sounds like you are helping a great deal. Congratulations on standing up and following through.
Phyllis: Thanks for reading.
I liked this line:
"The best that we can seek for each other is peace and harmony."
That'd be a lovely Valentine's gift. :)
She Blogs: Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful Valentine's Day.
Oh, so it wasn't okay that part of my PUNCH A RANDOM PERSON IN THE FACE DAY, I punched a Republican who came up to my door step to try and give me his 'literature' for re-election?


Just kidding...I kicked him in the groin!! :D

Seriously, great piece!! I rate with all my paws and my tail(that way, you get a rate!! ;D)
Tink: I am a person who once thought I was a moderate to liberal Republican, as the party has morphed into something unidentifiable, I like many others vote independent, which translates into democratic. I have worked closely with members of both parties on keeping reproductive rights, choice, safe and legal in Illinois and have taken on many a Republican in my day and still do, although not as actively (physically, ahhahahah). My work is, for what's worth, is no longer as visible as it once was, but still there.

I live in the area of the "crazy conservatives" and trust me, as long as I have been there, I have never been one of them and they know it. Thanks for reading and rating.
This is a time when all good people have to rise up and speak out, not for the sake of one group, but for everyone. An injustice to one is an injustice to all. Thank you for listening to and following your heart! I do believe this is the year they have taken all the rope and hung themselves. We could never have gotten here without people like you! R.
SpiritMan: Thanks for stopping by and you are right, injustice to one is injustice to all.
I am so proud to know you! You don't just talk the talk, you walk the walk. Kudos to you! You're the best!

I read your posts and get soooo homesick. Boo-hoo.........